There’s been no slow-down of all-things-fast. The expectation of quick results that comes with the nation’s burgeoning instant culture has brought new challenges for those at the forefront of property management. As the demand for immediate information, data and results becomes more prevalent in the multifamily industry, operators are faced with the challenge of leveraging technology to engage and support their onsite teams.
Instant culture and multifamily’s new status quo
A “need for speed” has always existed, but the fast evolution of consumer technology along with social media has pushed us further into instant culture. And for many industries, including real estate, the pandemic propelled tech development to an unprecedented pace. People were forced to shift their habits when COVID restrictions disrupted normal patterns.
The need to leverage technology was clear in multifamily, where the typical in-person contact between onsite teams and customers was no longer possible. Virtual tours, self-guided tours and chatbots solidified their place in the leasing process. Communities used technology to help prospects find and secure apartment homes virtually, in real-time and in ways that acknowledged how people prefer to consume information and communicate today.
The multifamily industry, however, still faces challenges when it comes to leveraging technology to support onsite teams and help them perform most efficiently and effectively. They crave fast, effective training and frequent, meaningful feedback. When these things are lacking, employees are more likely to underperform, be disengaged and move on to the next opportunity. We know the cost of disengagement and turnover is huge, so how can we tackle these challenges and how can technology help?
Information and training must be just-in-time, personalized, and quick.
First, we must adjust the way we make information, policies, and procedures available to employees. They need to be easy to find and reference. They must reflect recent legislation, regulations, agency guidance and industry trends. Robust search capabilities, dynamic content updates and automated workflows can help ensure that employees have the information they need when they need it.
We also must change the way we think about training. It is no longer reasonable to expect long-form training sessions. Companies need to offer an appropriate blend of short and shorter even-form training to employees. Information retention will require programs that are thoughtfully constructed and learning management systems that can serve bite-sized content at the right spaced intervals over time.
Finally, training must be personalized and contextualized. The learning paths we set for employees must take into account their prior knowledge, their job role, property type and even geographic location. Learning paths must also be tailored to where employees are in their career—are they being onboarded, developing skills in their current position or preparing for their next role? Delivering this level of personalized learning will require systems that can take employee data and automatically suggest learning paths that meet them where they are and adjust those paths as an employee’s circumstances and needs change.
Feedback on performance must happen early and often and must be supported by data.
Companies need to realize that the demand for instant results has entered the realms of performance management, employee satisfaction and retention. Employees are unlikely to be satisfied with annual or occasional performance reviews. Frequent feedback is becoming the norm and has been proven to help keep employees engaged and motivated. Developing and integrating tools that deliver faster, frequent, meaningful feedback needs to be a priority.
When employees put their training into action, managers will need to evaluate and give feedback on their performance as soon as possible, and these evaluations must be data-driven. Getting performance data in the hands of employees and supervisors faster, and having tools that facilitate meaningful communication needs to be a part of any program designed to engage, develop, and retain employees.
It’s important to remember that feedback must be a two-way street. Employees want to provide feedback on their training and other aspects of their jobs. Engagement surveys to collect this information need to be designed to allow employees to offer their opinion in a quick-and-easy way. Operators will then be able to provide actionable data to on-site management that allows them to make sound decisions about their teams, and this data should be provided as quickly as possible.
Solutions must work together to help, not overwhelm.
While the demand for faster, more efficient technology is ever-present, so too is the increasing supply of software options.
Multifamily can meet these demands through the proper implementation and integration of job-related technology, along with effective adjustments to training, policy and performance feedback delivery. These adjustments are needed to make sure the instant technology being adopted works effectively. Without that, the system can easily break down, resulting in frustrated staff, residents and prospects, which in turn will have a negative impact on net operating income.
There is a lack of established methods for blending new technology into the onsite team’s typical workday. New technologies always intend to deliver better service, but with so many different platforms—chat requests, texts, social media, email and phone—it can be overwhelming. Associates might feel the need to chase each request immediately, resulting in a cycle of continual response that leaves more important things unfinished and work-life balance can begin to suffer. As new technology is introduced, it’s imperative that companies help employees throughout the organization understand how to prioritize tasks.
Multifamily needs to embrace “instant” to prepare for the future.
This important cultural shift is an opportunity for multifamily to develop, implement and integrate technology to better serve onsite teams, which in turn will benefit residents and the bottom line. By consistently analyzing the proptech landscape and implementing a change management process, we can prioritize the technologies that quantifiably reduce workload and increase performance.
Rob Beauchamp joined Grace Hill as chief product officer in July 2021, bringing with him 30+ years of enterprise software, product and engineering leadership experience. Prior to Grace Hill, Rob held various software product leadership positions that have led to seven company acquisitions. Having worked across multiple industries, he specializes in aligning product vision through execution across the organization to maximize employee engagement, operational efficiency, and customer success.